As I often get inquiries on how I shot the photographs in my food recipes, I thought it would be helpful to my readers to create this Essential Resources for Food Bloggers guide. Found here are the food blogging tools, my DIY Overhead Photography setup, food blogging services, and food blogging software used here at The Forked Spoon.
Having been a full-time food blogger for a few years now, I thought it would be helpful to put together a page showcasing all the products and services that I use to keep this blog up and running. The list will be continually evolving as I find different resources that I find useful.
What are the Essential Food Blogging Photography Equipment?
Canon 5D Mark IV: I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark IV when it first came out after using a Pentax K5IIs for years. OMG, the 5D Mark IV not only shoots phenomenal photos and 4k video, you can also shoot remotely from your smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer via the Cannon App – which is very handy for Over Head Photography. However, it is a very expensive camera, so if you’re just starting look first at purchasing something like the Canon Rebel SL2 or even using the camera on your iPhone.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II: This is the only lens I own – it is really that good at everything. I have owned lower F-stop lenses in the f/1.7 and f/1.8 range with my old Pentax setup, and they really were not necessary for food blogging. This lens, like my camera body, is very expensive if you are just starting. Other lenses I am sure can do a good job; however, for the purposes of this page, I am only recommending what I own and I know works well.
ExpoDisc 82 mm 2.0 Professional White Balance Filter: This helps me get the perfect white balance in less than 30 seconds. I use it on every single photo shoot – its the first thing I do when I pull out my camera. See how you can make out the white of the image of the Expo Disk picture to the left, the white balance is off on the yellow side compared to the white outside the image – that image of the Expo Disk was shot not using the Expo Disk…
How to Shoot Overhead Food Photography?
I used to have a simple, and quite a dangerous ladder set up in my office for overhead shots. With one foot on the ladder, and my other foot on my window sill, I would precariously balance over my food photography subject in some very odd poses – I now look back and laugh. My husband was able to put together quite the overhead camera rig with professional Manfrotto gear which is very easy to use as shown in the picture below.
Complete Step by Step instructions on how to create this DIY overhead photography setup is at the bottom of this post.
Having the Canon 5D Mark IV, I am able to use the Cannon App on my iPhone with my overhead setup so that I do not have to physically click the button on the camera body, and I can put my free hand in the photo. This is also a great setup for shooting the “Tasty” Style videos. Here is what I use:
Manfrotto 028B Studio Pro Triman Tripod with Geared Column: This is a very heavy duty studio quality tripod – I only use it for overhead shots as it is extremely robust. While I do have the older Bogen 3046 version made by Manfrotto, they have changed very little over the years as it is a very quality piece of engineering. It stays parked right next to my photography table, ready to go with the below side arm mounted on top extending over the table. It is weighed down by two of my old ankle sandbag weights on the opposite horizontal double columns from the sidearm listed next, as I have two of the legs touching my food photography table. The last thing you want is for your overhead setup to topple over with your expensive DSLR set up on it – please use the counterweights!!!
Manfrotto 131D Side Arm: This attaches to the top of the tripod, and allows the overhead shot with the geared head. This allows you to line up the camera directly over the food photography table when used with both a heavy duty tripod and geared head. Again, please do make sure to use about 10lbs of counterweight such as both ankle sandbag weights, to avoid your precious camera from falling over.
Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head: This geared head makes overhead photography really simple. I keep the camera quick release plate on my camera at all times, so I can simply clip in my camera to my setup while in the middle of a shoot. The three knobs make minor adjustments, in case the camera is not completely level – a bubble level is very handy. This head is essential for the overhead experience, as once you have it dialed in with the bubble, very few changes ever need to be made. Again, please do make sure to use about 10lbs of counterweight on the tripod, such as both of these ankle sandbag weights, to avoid your precious camera from falling over.
How do you Shoot Images with your hands in the photographs?
The vast majority of the time I am doing food photography, I am alone in my office. Pictures with hands in them, modeling the food, or forking the subject can add to the presence of the image. Yet another reason why having my Canon 5D Mark IV with its Cannon iPhone App is so crucial. I can simply set up the shot on my tripod, put one hand in the image, and focus/shoot from my iPhone with my other hand (or toe).
Manfrotto Magnesium Ball Head with RC4 Quick Release: A Ball head is essential for Tripod food photography. I try to only use natural light, so when I am losing light near sunset having a tripod is great for allowing me to take longer exposures. This Head has the same exact quick release plate as the Manfrotto 410 I use for overhead shots. Having the same quick release plate is crucial while I am in the middle of a photo shoot, as I can seamlessly go from shooting overhead style to shots where I am holding the camera, to tripod shooting with one hand in the photo, without having to screw in a new quick release plate on the camera. The RC4 quick release plate is always on my camera – I have never taken it off since I bought my overhead setup.
Manfrotto MT190XPRO Section Aluminum Tripod Legs: I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for. As you can tell, I tend to go for quality items over cheap. Manfrotto makes very high-quality equipment in Italy and has been widely trusted in the photography industry for decades. While you can get a much cheaper tripod, this is what I use with my ball head above, so this is what I recommend from experience. As this mostly stays in my studio, I had no need for more expensive Carbon Fiber models which only cut down on weight hand help with stability in windy outdoor conditions.
How do you Shoot in Low Light Conditions?
I always try to shot photos with natural light. But natural light is not always an option in the depths of winter. So when light becomes scarce, I have two separate lighting setups. The first one is below and is very simple and easy to use. The second light is an overhead lighting setup my husband put together and is a bit heavy and complicated for this post.
Lowel Ego Digital Tabletop Light: This was my first artificial light, and I still use it today. I used to put it on my table often for photo shoots. However, these days it lives permanently on a simple light tripod that can be easily positioned where need be.
How do you start a Food Blog Website?
SiteGround is the hosting company we use here at The Forked Spoon. SiteGround has made it very easy to start a WordPress blog and SiteGrounds outstanding customer service is what makes them my choice of hosting companies. If you’re just starting your blog, go with the most basic and cost-effective plan, StartUp. You can always upgrade your plan later as you grow. As I already had existing traffic from my old Coffee & Crayons blog, I started with the GoGeek Package right from the birth of The Forked Spoon, and have moved on to one of their custom Cloud packages. Sitegrounds customer service is the best – they pickup the phone when you call them 24/7. Also, they include a great easy to use backup tool which easily allows you to roll back WordPress Plugins should you encounter issues with new releases.
The Forked Spoon is run on the Genisis Framework and has a Custom Child Theme made by the very talented Bobbi at Ready to Blog Designs. Ready to Blog Designs migrated me from Square Space to WordPress in January 2018. My only regret is not moving to WordPress sooner with Bobbi…
How to Shoot Overhead Photography
- Order/Gather Equipment listed
- When equipment is fully gathered, stand the tripod up.
- Secure the side arm to the Tripod, with the arm directly centered between two legs, to ensure the arm will go far over the photography table when those two legs are moved right next to the table.
- Add both Ankle Sandbags(all 10 lbs) to the Tripod Leg on the opposite side of the Tripod arm, to counter balance the tripod.
- Secure the Geared Head to the Side Arm, tightening the three screws below the side arm head. The Manfrotto logo should be pointing up.
- Secure the RC4 base-plate to your camera. Make sure the base plate is as close to parallel with the camera as possible
- Double check the 10 lbs of Ankle Sandbags Weights are counter balancing the Side Arm/Geared Head.
- Connect the Camera to the Geared Head using the plate.
- Move the large adjustment knobs of the geared head until the Camera looks to be pointed perfectly downward at the photography table or subject.
- Place Bubble Level on the LCD screen on the camera, and adjust the fine tune knobs until the bubble is in the middle. Once the bubble is perfectly int he middle, you are ready to shoot overhead safely.